Motorola has been redefining what a budget phone is capable of for the past few years. The Moto X line provided affordable flagships with great features while the beloved Moto G and E lines set examples for just how well budget phones could perform given proper software.
Although Moto has diverged from its usual affordable flagships with the $600+ Moto Z line, this year’s Moto G4 and G4 Plus are still extremely affordable and come with good features. But the smartphone market has been trending towards power yet affordable flagships for a couple of years. Does the G4 Plus offer enough to make it stand out from the crowd?
Things I Liked
For the last few years, Motorola has been leading the way in terms of Android skins for its phones. It does this by basically not adding a skin at all. I would wager that most would think this phone ran stock Android at first glance.
The G4 Plus’ version of Marshmallow is almost untouched aside from a few software additions and Moto apps. I love the look and feel of stock Android and usually protest to any changes made to the software by phone manufacturers. However, Moto continually impresses me with the usefulness of its added features.
Moto display is still one of my favorite OEM additions since its inception on the original Moto X. The ability to quickly view and interact with notifications using Moto Display is something you don’t realize you want until you have it.
Another addition that Moto has spoiled me with are Moto Actions. With this feature, you can control a few aspects of your phone with nothing but movement. The most famous of these are the double twist with your phone to open the camera and the double chop to activate the flashlight. While they take a few moments to master, the convenience they offer is worth it.
I still believe that Moto provides the best Android software experience aside from pure stock Android.
The G4 Plus comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor and Adreno 405 GPU; however, the amount of RAM is dependent on your version. There are 16, 32, and 64GB variants of the G4 Plus that each come with 2, 3, and 4GB of RAM, respectively (the 32GB/3GB version is not available in the US). I have the 64GB model with 4GB of RAM.
In my couple of weeks using this phone, performance has blown me away. I believe this is definitely due in part to the mostly stock Android software running on the G4 Plus. This phone flies through daily tasks like social media and web browsing, checking emails, texting, and playing light games.
It may struggle on games that are more graphically intensive and demanding, but for the majority of mobile gamers, the G4 Plus will be more than enough. I never experienced any stutters or lag while using this phone during my normal daily activities, which is a continuation of Moto’s commitment to making budget phones that still provide quality user experiences.
Powering the G4 Plus is a non-removable, 3000mAh battery. Combine this with power friendly hardware and software, and that’s a phone that, in theory, should have good battery life. In actual use, I found that the G4 Plus has incredible battery life!
I use my phone heavily and can easily drain most phones’ batteries before the end of the day. With the G4 Plus, I found myself often ending the day with over 10% battery left. I never got less than 5 hours of screen time every day with most days climbing close to or passing 6 hours of screen time.
My normal day includes texting friends and family most of the day, streaming YouTube and Spotify over WiFi and LTE for about 2 hours or more together, sending some pictures through Snapchat, and having four email accounts pulling down continuously. If you are a power user, I believe most will be able to get a full day of use from the G4 Plus and lighter users could stretch that to two days or more.
One of the advantages of getting the G4 Plus over the basic G4 is the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner. With a base price of $250, I was not expecting much from this phone’s fingerprint scanner, but I have been pleasantly surprised by it.
While its speed will not rival the newest offerings from Samsung and Apple, it proved faster than a friend’s iPhone 6 and should be fast enough for most anyone. You also do not have to power on the display to unlock your phone; simply touching your finger to the scanner will both turn on the display and unlock the phone.
In terms of accuracy, I have had almost no misses with any of the four fingers I added to the phone. The fingerprint scanner is a welcomed addition to the G4 Plus, and its speed and accuracy make it worth the price difference over the regular G4.
From pictures and videos, the G4 Plus does not appear to be anything incredible physically, and honestly, it isn’t. However, I do not think that is a bad thing. While the phone is no fully metal behemoth, the metal band on the side and slightly textured plastic back make the G4 Plus a comfortable phone to hold while also keeping weight down.
I was pleased to see Moto go with a textured plastic back instead of something glossy because it adds a grippiness to it that gives you a better hold. I was never worried about this phone sliding out of my hand or my pocket. The design itself is pretty understated with no logos or writing aside from the Moto logo on the back. The back is also removable to give you access to the SIM card slot and the MicroSD card slot.
There won’t be any awards given to the G4 Plus in terms of style or uniqueness, but its solid build and smart materials make it easy to hold, which is most important.
The following are a couple of the smaller things that I liked about the Moto G4 Plus. While they are not big enough to warrant entire paragraphs, I believe they deserve to be mentioned nonetheless.
- I love front-facing speakers and always commend companies for adding them to their phones. Moto deserves some credit for using a front-facing speaker on the G4 Plus. If you are looking for a full report on the speaker, keep on reading.
- This is a completely personal opinion, but I love the dimple on the back of many Moto phones. It creates a nice place for my finger to rest and just feels nice when you hold the phone. Sometimes it is the small things that really stand out.
Things I Didn’t Like
The display on the G4 Plus is a nice size at 5.5” and comes with a respectable 1080p resolution. This resolution definitely helps the G4 Plus accomplish its impressive screen on times. Also, the IPS panel gets exceptionally bright for those who struggle viewing their phones in the sunlight.
Unfortunately, this is where the good features of the display end. The color reproduction on the G4 Plus’ display is completely horrible. Colors appear washed out and much lighter than they should be. This is especially noticeable when using the camera. For many people, I do not believe this will be important or even noticeable; however, there are some who appreciate a quality screen on their phone. If that is you, the G4 Plus probably isn’t your phone.
This category was difficult to place because the camera is fairly average for a phone in this price range. The G4 comes with a 16-megapixel f/2.0 camera on back with a 5-megapixel front camera.
In well lit, outdoor shots, the rear camera actually performs well. Details are fairly crisp, color reproduction is okay, and focusing is quick thanks to phase detection autofocus. However, I found that the camera tends to struggle in photos with uneven lighting by blowing out highlights and losing detail in shadows.
Thankfully, the G4 Plus comes with a good HDR mode that helps level out these types of shots; although, it is not as fast as I would like and requires the phone to be held steady for a few seconds, which might not be possible in some situations. As for low light, the camera struggles noticeably. I do not use my camera much in low light anyway, but the test shots I took showed lots of noise, poor detail, and an overall dull image.
My biggest complaint is actually not the camera’s fault but, rather, the screen’s. Due to the poor color reproduction of the screen, photos often look washed out, but when viewing them on another device, the photos look much better than they did on the G4 Plus. This made it difficult to tell how the photos would actually turn out.
As for the front camera, it continues on the path of average. Good enough for the majority of users, but it will not be blowing you away in terms of quality.
Earlier, I commended Moto’s use of a front facing speaker, and some of you might be wondering why speaker is singular. Well, that is because there is only one speaker on the G4 Plus. The earpiece doubles as a speaker, which means no dual speakers on this phone. I like the inclusion of dual speakers, and I was disappointed to see Moto opt for a single one.
Of course, it would probably be okay if the speaker had good quality, but my findings on the sound from the speaker are a strong “meh”. I never expect much from phone speakers since they are rarely good, but the G4 Plus’ speaker is disappointing.
If you mostly use your speakers for watching YouTube videos, listening to podcasts, and talking on speakerphone, the G4 Plus can handle that. But do not expect to play music with any sort of style from this phone. I would recommend using headphones or an external speaker for anything like that.
Just like above, I also found a few small things that I did not like about the Moto G4 Plus that just aren’t big enough to go in their own category.
- While I loved the fingerprint scanner, I prefer fingerprint scanners on the back of phones because I like the front of my phone to be minimal and clean. I also think the dimple in the back would have been a perfect place.
- To my dismay, the G4 Plus lacks NFC. For many of you, that might not be a factor at all, but for me, it was disappointing to see it left off. I use NFC often when checking out at stores as well as connecting to several of my speakers. If you don’t use NFC, you can pretty much ignore this complaint.
- As I said earlier, little things are often what sets a phone apart from its competitors. Most people may not pay attention to their phone’s buttons, but I always love when companies make their buttons tactile and clicky. In the case of the G4 Plus, the buttons are mushy, which makes pressing them difficult.
After a few weeks with the G4 Plus, I have to say that I am pleased with Moto’s fourth iteration of its famous budget phone. Performance, software, battery life, and the fingerprint scanner are all wonderful and make this phone a joy to use. The lackluster display, disappointing speaker, and average camera keep it from being a perfect budget phone.
So the question remains: Did Moto bring its A-game with the G4 Plus? With a heavy heart, I have to say no. I think the company could have done better with the G4 Plus, which is evident when you look at my list of dislikes. That being said, I would not have much hesitation in recommending the G4 Plus to anyone looking for a quality budget smartphone.
Looking for something smaller and less expensive, check out our review of the Moto G4!